February 2, 2015 nº 1,590 - Vol. 13

"Teach self-denial and make its practice pleasure, and you can create for the world a destiny more sublime that ever issued from the brain of the wildest dreamer."

Sir Walter Scott

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  • Top News

Obama plans tax on US firms overseas to fix roads at home

Obama plans to close a tax loophole that allows US firms to avoid paying taxes on overseas profits, the White House says. His 2016 budget will impose a one-off 14% tax on US profits stashed overseas, as well as a 19% tax on any future profits as they are earned. The $238bn raised will be used to fund road projects in the US. The proposal is one of the main components of Obama's latest budget, due to be presented on Monday. The spending plan, including the proposal on overseas profits, would require approval from the Republican-controlled Congress to be made law, something seen as unlikely. Research firm Audit Analytics calculated last April that US firms in total have $2.1 trillion-worth of profits stashed abroad. It found US conglomerate General Electric had the most profit stored overseas at $110bn. Tech giants Microsoft and Apple and drugs companies Pfizer and Merck all featured in the top five. No tax is currently due on foreign profits as long as they are not brought into the United States. As a result some companies put their earnings in low tax jurisdictions and simply leave them there.

In-house legal department budgets not growing

Relationship partners take note: Legal department budgets won't increase this year. According to an annual survey conducted by the Association of Corporate Counsel, almost two-thirds of chief legal officers said they plan no change in either staffing or budget. As a result, they "have no room to absorb an increased hourly rate," Veta Richardson, chief executive officer of the Washington-based organization, said.

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  • Crumbs

1 - U.S. lawmakers seek to end restrictions on travel to Cuba - click here.

2 - Harvest pulls arbitration request vs Venezuela over stake sale -click here

3 - Senators Introduce Legislation to Lift Cuba Travel Ban -click here.

4-Illinois pension ruling may not impact Chicago case, attorney says - click here.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China's feeling the pressure to join global easing

The case for China to join the latest wave of global monetary easing has increased, with a manufacturing gauge signaling the first contraction in more than two years. Central banks from the euro zone to Canada and Singapore last month added monetary stimulus as slumping oil prices damp the outlook for inflation and global momentum outside the US moderates. China's central bank, which cut interest rates in November for the first time in two years, has since added liquidity in targeted measures rather than with follow-up rate reductions or cuts to banks' required reserve ratios.

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters return to streets

Thousands of pro-democracy activists have returned to the streets of Hong Kong for their first big rally since mass protests last year. Their key demand is fully democratic elections for the territory's leader.

President of China Minsheng Bank steps down

The China Minsheng Banking Corporation, one of China's biggest financial institutions, said on Saturday that its president, Mao Xiaofeng, had resigned for personal reasons unrelated to the bank's operation, after published reports that he had been taken away to assist the country's anti-corruption investigators.

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  • Brief News

Google to rewrite privacy policy in response to UK pressure

A representative of Google signed an agreement Friday to rewrite the company's current privacy policy in response to pressure from the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). The ICO brought an action for breach of privacy on behalf of more than 100 users of Apple's Safari browser who claim that Google tracked their browsing history without their knowledge, breaching the 1998 Data Protection Act.

Greece: The dangerous game

European officials and governments are much more anxious about the Greek drama than they are admitting publicly. They fear a miscalculation in the weeks ahead could precipitate a full-blown crisis. The new radical-left Greek government said it would no longer negotiate with the troika: officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union (EU) and the European Central Bank (ECB). That did not go down well with European officials. Greece's government also said it would refuse new loans from the EU and the IMF. That raised the question of how it would finance itself.

Uber sued over India rape allegation

An Indian woman who says she was raped by a driver of web-based taxi firm Uber in Delhi has filed a lawsuit against the service in a US court. The 26-year-old woman accuses the firm of failing to ensure passengers' safety and is seeking unspecified damages. Uber said in a statement that it was co-operating with authorities to ensure the "perpetrator is brought to justice". Driver Shiv Kumar Yadav is currently on trial on rape and kidnapping charges.

When consumers give up their right to trial in financial disputes

Companies use form contracts to strip consumers of constitutional rights. Many companies don't like being sued in court when they misbehave. (Who does?) Consequently, their contracts say that consumers can't sue them in court, despite the Constitution's right to due process — or have a jury trial — referred to in both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Instead, the contracts say consumers can bring claims in arbitration. Arbitration offers several advantages to businesses. Businesses can specify in the contract that disputes will be heard by their favorite arbitration provider. Companies also like arbitration because it lets them avoid class-action lawsuits. Because many consumer claims are for small amounts, consumers must bring them as class actions — so they can share the cost of litigation with numerous other consumers — or not at all. By outlawing class-action suits, arbitration clauses insulate businesses from being sued for small claims. Consumer advocates and industry lawyers disagree about whether businesses should be able to put arbitration clauses in their form contracts. But everyone agrees that if consumers have not agreed to arbitrate, they have a right to sue in court.

ICTY upholds Bosnian Serb genocide convictions

A judge at the UN Yugoslav tribunal has upheld the convictions of five men for their role in the Srebrenica massacre. Sentences for four of the men, high-ranking officials in the Bosnian Serb Army in 1995, were also confirmed. They had appealed against their convictions in 2010 for a range of crimes including genocide. About 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were killed in Srebrenica in just three days in 1995 - the worst atrocity on European soil since the Holocaust.

Brazil graft case sets back economy

The corruption scandal at state-controlled Petróleo Brasileiro SA is now threatening Brazil's economy. Petrobras, Brazil's largest company and a major source of capital investment, is in chaos. Still scrambling to calculate the extent of the massive fraud, it has canceled planned projects and delayed payments to accused contractors, setting off a chain of defaults and credit downgrades. Thousands of laborers have been put out work building oil refineries, tankers and drilling platforms. Banks that lent money to firms tangled in the legal dragnet are cutting off credit and girding for potential losses. The turmoil is a liability for Rousseff's new economic team and it is a major stumbling block for Brazil's economy, which is already struggling with slow growth, widening deficits and an epic drought. A recent survey of economists projects GDP will grow just 0.13% this year, but even that may be optimistic. Petrobras bonds are trading near record lows, and Moody's Investors Service on Thursday downgraded all ratings for the company, which is now in danger of losing its coveted investment-grade status. Petrobras shares, meanwhile, have tumbled more than 70% since early September. Falling global oil prices are a factor. Still, Petrobras has performed far worse than its major global peers, shedding $86 billion in value over the period.

US Justice Department backs down in fight over science evidence

The Justice Department has backed down in a confrontation with a federal judge over a scientific-advisory committee's ability to explore whether prosecutors have an unfair advantage in trials with forensic evidence. US District Judge Jed Rakoff , who resigned earlier this week after the Justice Department moved to curb the committee's abilities, has agreed to return to the panel. The Justice Department has agreed to let Judge Rakoff and other panel members raise issues of how evidence is handled in pretrial proceedings, although officials aren't saying whether they will accept recommendations for changes to the rules. On Wednesday, Judge Rakoff fired off a letter to fellow members of the National Commission on Forensic Science, saying he would resign in the wake of the Justice Department's decision to prevent the group from examining how evidence is made available before trial. Judge Rakoff, a longtime jurist in Manhattan, called the department's decision "unsupportable" and wrote, "I feel I have no choice'' but to resign from the panel.

North Sea oil summit to hear pleas for action

Industry body Oil and Gas UK is to call for "meaningful action" from government in order to tackle major challenges facing North Sea operators. CEO Malcolm Webb will tell an oil and gas summit in Aberdeen on Monday that "an unpredictable and harmful business environment" has put the sector "at great risk". The body wants urgent tax cuts amid falling oil prices and rising costs. It also wants a new oil and gas regulator in place as soon as possible.

Alstom gets break on fine

When the US Justice Department announced a record $772 million foreign-bribery settlement with Alstom SA in December, there was a hitch: The French engineering company couldn't pay without hurting its ability to do business. So Alstom got a break: approval from a court to wait until its $17 billion deal with General Electric Co. closes before making the payment. The delay—the reason for which hasn't previously been reported—gives Alstom more time than some other companies have had to pay criminal penalties for violating US foreign-bribery laws, which often come due 10 business days after a sentencing.

Italy MPs elect judge Sergio Mattarella as president

Italy's parliament has elected constitutional court judge Sergio Mattarella as the country's president. Mattarella, 73, will succeed Giorgio Napolitano, 89, who stood down earlier this month citing "signs of fatigue". The result, confirmed on a third day of voting, will be seen as a boost for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who nominated Mattarella. Italy's president is largely a ceremonial role, but includes the power to appoint a prime minister.

Canada PM Harper calls for expanded terror laws

Encouraging terror attacks against Canada will become a crime under legislation proposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The measure will also expand the powers of the country's spy agency, allowing it to take direct action to stop attacks. Work began on the bill after two attacks days apart last year.

Egypt court bans Hamas armed group

The Cairo Appeals Court for Urgent Matters on Saturday banned and declared Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Qassam Brigades) to be a terrorist group. Qassam Brigades is the armed branch of Hamas, which is itself an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. The ruling is based on allegations by Egyptian officials that Qassam Brigades played a role in the bombing attack on Sinai Peninsula last October and that members have been smuggling weapons from Gaza into Egypt for use in the ongoing conflict between government forces and armed revolutionary groups. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri described the verdict as a "dangerous" promotion of Israel's occupation of Palestine.

Pennsylvania law allows NRA to sue cities over gun rules

A new Pennsylvania law allows membership groups like the National Rifle Association to sue municipalities over local gun ordinances. The NRA has already filed suit against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster, claiming the cities' gun ordinances are illegal. “We think that the state legislature's been very clear that it and it alone reserves the right to regulate firearms. These municipalities have delegated authority from the general assembly and they're exceeding that authority.”

Venezuela authorizes use of force against demonstrators

Venezuelan authorities on Friday passed new regulations that will allow soldiers to use deadly force against demonstrators if they feel that their lives are at risk. These regulations were passed after a span of violent protests last year, as an attempt to maintain order in the country.

Canada Supreme Court upholds workers' right to strike

The Supreme Court of Canada held on Friday that a worker's right to strike is constitutionally protected. The court's decision came after a challenge to the constitutionality of a Saskatchewan statute that limited the ability of "essential service employees" from participating in any strike action against their employer. The court held that the statute was unconstitutional because it "substantially interferes with a meaningful process of collective bargaining," violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Kyrgyzstan considering legislation allowing government to shut down media outlets

A spokesperson for the Kyrgyzstan government discussed proposed legislation that would allow the Kyrgyz government to shut down media outlets without requiring a court decision with Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Friday. Justice Ministry spokesman Emir Zulpuev told RFE/RL that the legislation would allow the government complete authority to close media outlets if the owner is pronounced dead and no legal successor has been appointed. The proposed legislation also allows the government to terminate media sites if the company has been liquidated or the owner's legal status as an entrepreneur is annulled. Additional amendments require media outlets to inform the Justice Ministry about editor in chief changes. Media rights advocates warn that this increased government authority could be used to restrict independent and opposition media.

Chile president proposes plan to end complete abortion ban

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Saturday announced a plan to end the country's complete ban on abortions. Bachelet stated in a televised address that she has sent a bill to Congress that would allow abortion when a mother's life is at risk, a fetus will not survive pregnancy, or when a woman is raped. Chile, a conservative and predominately Roman Catholic country, initiated its complete ban on abortion in 1990 under dictator Augusto Pinochet. The ban, which imposes a punishment of up to five years in prison, has been challenged a few times since its inception with little success.

ICC should drop cases against Bashir, Ruto

African leaders urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Saturday to drop cases against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, or suspend the charges until African concerns are considered by the court. Bashir is accused of failing to respond to summons to answer to charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and has evaded arrest despite an ICC arrest warrant against him. Ruto is currently on trial, accused of crimes against humanity for post-election violence in 2007-08 in which more than 1,000 people died and more than 600,000 were displaced. African leaders claim the ICC has unfairly targeted Africans and urge the ICC to reconsider changes to its founding treaty. Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta claims the case against Ruto is very weak.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time
Tales from the sharing economy. Baby, You Can Drive My Car, and Do My Errands, and Rent My Stuff…

Newsweek
Lack of Co-ordination Leaves EU ‘Vulnerable’ to Jihadists Posing as Refugees

Business Week
America the Relatively Beautiful

The Economist
Greece and the euro’s future. Go ahead, Angela, make my day

Der Spiegel
Der Geisterfahrer. Europas Albtraum Alexis Tsipras

L'Espresso
L'Europa non cresce perché ha deciso così

  • Daily Press Review

Patriots beat Seahawks 28-24 for fourth Super Bowl win
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Amr Moussa Considers Election Boycott
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

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Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

issuing of Islamic bonds is essential in Yemen
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Court appearance after Carlow car chase
CNN International, London, England

Tom Brady throws 4 TDs, named MVP
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Katie Hopkins stoops to new low on Celebrity Big Brother as she bans Katie Price from her inner circle
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

How contemptible. Our self-obsessed politicians won't honour the greatest day in our history...and the reason will make your blood boil
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

A Warning To The West: A Voice From The Heart Of The Islamic World
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Bali Nine prisoner Andrew Chan's family visit Kerobokan ahead of final appeal
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Turkish President Erdo?an says UK is semi-presidency dominated by Queen
Independent The, London, England

Best Mascara: 15 Of The LOOK Team's Favourites
Moscow News The, Independent, Moscow, Russia

The truth about the Nazi camp my mum was in
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

Man arrested for climbing White House bike rack
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

IS says it beheads Japanese hostage Goto
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Japan decries 'heinous' Goto beheading claim
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Suu Kyi's iron gate up for auction
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

IS hostage crisis The worlds problems enter Japans psyche again
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Okinawa Islanders face off with Tokyo over bases
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Goto beheaded by Islamic State militants
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

This restaurant offers free food to beautiful women
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

Ukraine President cancels trip over protests in eastern Ukraine
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

ASIC raises concerns about QBE's handling of complaints and dispute resolutions
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Tang Prize paves path toward brighter future
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

How an undrafted Patriots rookie made one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

US VP expresses support to Haitian President
Globe and Mail The, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Strong push for Fahmy's release as Egypt frees Al Jazeera colleague
International Business Times, Business news organization, New York, U.S

Liberty Reserve Brought Down By 'Joe Bogus': How The Feds Arrested Arthur Budovsky
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

PunditFact fact-checks the Feb. 1 Sunday shows
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Deflation the danger as China's factories struggle
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Doctors Told Patriots That Wide Receiver Should Be Checked For A Concussion, But He Stayed In Game
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Dionne: E.J. Dionne: Why Obama's new budget will put pressure on Republicans
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

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